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NFL 2013 - A First Look (Part 3)
by Larry Ness - 08/18/2013
NFL 2013 (A First Look-Part 3)
This was going to be my final installment but it's become to wordy. I will go division by division laying out a brief preview of the NFC here, follow with the AFC on Wednesday (part-4) and then next Saturday, list my favorite team over/under win totals for the 2013 season (part-5).
NFC East: What a season it was in 2012. The defending division champs (Giants) were 6-2 halfway through but missed the playoffs at 9-7 The Cowboys were tied for first after Week 15 but lost their last two games to finish 8-8. The Eagles opened 3-1 but went 1-11 the rest of the way (bye-bye Andy), leaving the Redskins, who were 3-6 through 10 weeks to capture their first division title in 13 years by winning their final seven games.
NFC East in 2013: This will be a tight division but I'll go with the Giants to win. New York hasn't finished under .500 since Tom Coughlin's first season of 2004 and like last year, 10-6 should win it. Dallas never seems to win when it counts and I don't believe the Redskins can replicate last year's late run (who knows about RG III?). As for the Eagles, I'm not 'buying into' Chip Kelly just yet (if ever?) plus I don't care for either QB, Vick or Foles.
NFC North: This division had three, 10-win teams plus the disappointing 4-12 Lions in 2012. The Packers (11-5) won the division and the Vikings (10-6), rebounding from a 3-13 season in 2011, won a tie-breaker for the final wild card spot over the Bears (10-6). As for the Lions, they ended an 11-year playoff drought by going 10-6 in 2011 but lost their final eight games in 2012 to finish 4-12.
NFC North in 2013: This Green Bay team is nowhere near the juggernaut teams which won the Super Bowl after the 2010 season or which went 15-1 in the 2011 regular season. However, I do expect the 2013 team to make it three consecutive division titles, joining their 2002-04 and 1995-97 predecessors. Adrian Peterson is a stud but Christian Ponder is not ready for primetime at QB. The Vikes are better than the 3-13 team from 2011 but not as good as the 10-6 team of 2012. Lovie's gone after nine years and no one really knows if Marc Trestman is the "new Halas" in Chicago. My guess is no and for sure, Jay Cutler isn't the "new Sid Luckman." As for the Lions, make it 13 of 14 non-playoff seasons in 2012.
NFC South: Atlanta went 13-3 in 2012 and won the division by SIX games, as Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all finished at 7-9. Carolina actually improved by a game (Panthers were 6-10 in 2011) but it was still considered a disappointing season (Carolina did win five of its last six games). New Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano had his team at 6-4 through 11 weeks but the Buccs imploded, losing FIVE straight before a meaningless Week 17 win. As for New Orleans, you surely know its 2012 saga.
NFC South in 2013: The NFL went to four, four-team divisions (one in each conference) beginning in 2002. Since that time, the NFC South is the ONLY division to not have a repeat division-winner. While it's hard to imagine the Falcons falling too far from last year, I won't ignore the "no-repeat" rule in this division. That leaves me picking the Saints as the division-winner with Payton back on the sidelines and Brees carrying the team's pathetic defense (doesn't Rob Ryan have to make improvements to this unit?). I know there are many out there who are touting the Panthers and Buccs to be improved but I say neither team makes it to .500 in 2013.
NFC West: How quickly this division has gone from worst to first (at least in some people's minds). In 2010 the Seahawks captured this division with a 7-9 record and no NFC West winner had won more than 10 games since the Seahawks were an NFC-best 13-3 way back in 2005. The 49ers won this division at 11-4-1 in 2012 with Seattle grabbing the No. 5 seed at 11-5. The Rams finished just 7-8-1 in Jeff Fisher's first season in St Louis but they owned the NFC West's best intra-division record at 4-1-1. The Cards opened 4-0 but won just ONE game the rest of the way (bye-bye Whisenhunt).
NFC West in 2013: Jim Harbaugh has quickly returned the 49ers to the best team in this division, taking over a 6-10 team to go 13-3 and 11-4-1. San Fran is the best-balanced team in the division (arguably in the NFL) and should wear the division crown again. The Seahawks are for real and are in line for a third straight playoff appearance. I'm not a big fan of Sam Bradford (Rams' QB) or Carson Palmer (Cards' new QB).
NFC playoff teams for 2013: The Packers and 49ers repeat as division winners with the Giants replacing the Redskins at the top in the East and the Saints supplanting the Falcons in the South. Can't see the Falcons falling out of the playoff mix, leaving just one open spot. I'll call for the Seahawks to edge out the Cowboys and Bears for the final wild card spot in the NFC.